The truth about stress…in my opinion

September 16, 2021

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until final exams my freshman year in college that I heard the term “stressed out.” It just wasn’t used that often back then. Nor were the words “anxiety” and “panic attacks.” The first time I heard the term, “anxiety attack,” I was 23 and it came from the mouth of a 10 year old kid who said it when he was tired from playing sports, and he only said it because he heard his Mom say it. He didn’t know what it meant. Now these things have almost become a way of life and are talked about all the time, and in some situations, we are the reason for the stress.

Before I go into what I mean by that and why it is so important to understand stress from a different perspective than we are used to, for those of us with a health condition (I have a chronic painful movement disorder called dystonia), poor stress management can have a profoundly negative impact on our existing symptoms, as well as contribute to the onset of new health challenges, which can range from minor headaches to more severe problems. Because of how rampant stress has become, I want to share a perspective that might help your stress levels…or for those reading this who disagree with what I have to say, raise your stress levels. I hope it is the former!

Here is the thing about stress… I think is often made up in the mind. We create stress by how we perceive and judge life events. In other words, we choose for something to be stressful or not stressful. The reason I say this is because there are things that stress me that wouldn’t bother you, and vice versa. Therefore, if stress were as profound as we all make it out to be, wouldn’t EVERYONE be stressed by all the same things? But we aren’t, so wouldn’t this follow that we choose stress, and we can therefore perhaps “unchoose” stress?

I don’t know if I am right or wrong. There are plenty of opinions from people far brighter than me that go against everything I just said. But logically speaking, isn’t every experience we have in life merely just a perception? Don’t we all see things through a different lens, meaning that we all experience things very differently? Why are some people frightened by airplanes and stressed for days prior to a trip, while others are fascinated by planes and love to fly? Why is someone totally at ease with a huge workload, while someone else feels buried for days?

I could ask a million different similar comparison questions, but the bottom line is that perceptions and judgements are at the root of every stressful response we have. Therefore, if we change our perception, we can change our reality. This certainly cannot be debated because it is a definite fact, and we can all probably point to things in our lives where we experienced a shift in perspective that created a shift in our reality. Therefore, isn’t a stress response nothing more than a faulty perception?

Have I mastered this? Absolutely not whatsoever! But my awareness of this has helped me through some very tough times without too much of an increase in my existing health issues, and prevented others from arising. One of the techniques I use whenever I am dealing with something I allow myself to feel stressed out about is gratitude. During the “storm,” so to speak, I will actually say “thank you.” In every previous stressful situation, I always learned something from the experience. So, if I say thank you during the experience rather than after, it makes for smoother sailing throughout the process.

Perceptions and judgements are at the root of every stressful response we have. Click To Tweet

The next time you are feeling stressed, don’t run from it. Don’t hide from it. Go into it and explore what it’s teaching you. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling without any resistance whatsoever. See if you can learn to flow through the situation. With practice, you may be able to reduce your overall stress and perhaps even eliminate some of your triggers.

I know for a fact that if I am emotionally reactionary when things don’t go as planned or the way I like them, I am always further burdened physically, I get angry or frustrated, I lose sleep, etc. I know for a fact that this is the case for others as well. What is also fact is that when I don’t resist a challenge and choose to be mindful of the stress trigger, why it is a trigger, practice changing my perception to reduce the trigger, it always decreases the stress response.

Ask yourself- What causes me stress? Why does it cause me stress? How can I look at it differently so I can reduce or stop allowing it to stress me? Explore yourself to see what all of your experiences are teaching you. Look at life from the perspective of an impassioned student, and I promise you that it will be far more tolerable, even when you might feel lousy.

Recall a past stressful event and how you got through it. Thinking about it now probably doesn’t stress you out as much as it did back then. Think of those past experiences and use them to help you now as you go through tough times and remind yourself that everything has a way of working out.

If you would like to read more about stress and stress management, along with strategies for dealing will all sorts of adversities in life, please see my new book, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. You can also check out my first book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey for more specific information related to stress and dystonia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers NetworkThe MightyPatient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.

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8 responses to “The truth about stress…in my opinion”

  1. Brian Langwerowski says:

    Once again, great article Tom! There’s much truth in what you’re saying. You’ve reminded me of some old strategies to combat stress that I forgot about. And some new ones to help me. Thank you for your kindness and insights.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you Brian and good to hear from you. Writing these blogs are also good reminders to myself how to be more accountable to these different strategies as well. I fall out of practice sometimes and then have experiences that challenge me to think differently again… a lifelong process 🙂

  2. Marti says:

    I agree, there are ways to manage stress, but I tend to avoid people or situations that I know, from experience, will set me off. Example: I had a wonderful tai chi instructor for several years. He moved, and the guy who replaced him simply talks too much before finally getting to the movement portion of the class. So, what had been a very therapeutic hour became Intolerable. I often would show up 20 minutes into the class, but felt it wasn’t respectful to the other students to come in late.

    I have OMD, and limited verbal communication. I think it’s counter-productive to try to put myself back into this situation and “explore’ how I could better manage my stress. My perception of the situation is hard to change.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Marti. Thanks very much for sharing that story about you tai chi instructor. I think that is a great example of how to set boundaries, but how difficult it can be.

  3. JOANN KROHN says:

    I agree but some things in my life I can’t forget and never want to go through the suffering again. Now that I am getting older. I think about health and life.
    But I try very hard to not to sweat the small stuff. I only have special friends. I try to keep my life easygoing.

  4. Diane Affhauser says:

    Thank you, Tom, for another timely blog… I always take away some great stuff from your writings. I’m taking a break as I had a no-show. As a hairstylist, I have lots of personalities in my chair, and a coworker who’s constantly stressed. With CD, it’s another layer. I truly needed this at this time. Thank you!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you Dianne. I am so glad the blogs are helpful. I would think your job is very stressful with so many different people. Hats off to you!

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